Sierra Leone Alert: Media Commission holds newspapers accountable for unprofessional conduct

The Independent Media Commission (IMC), which regulates the activities of the media in Sierra Leone, has fined two privately-owned newspapers, Independent Observer and Prime Times.

The Independent Observer newspaper was fined 16.5 million Leones (about US$3,700) while the Prime Times newspaper must pay 3 million Leones (about US$650). They both have one week to pay the fine; failure to do so will result in suspension of the newspapers.

The MFWA’s correspondent in Sierra Leone reported that the fine imposed on the Independent Observer is a consequence of a publication by the paper on February 6, 2015. The said story was headlined, “Sylvia Blyden says she had sex 3 times with Rev. Kabs-Kanu”.

A press release issued by the IMC on February 11 said the publication “touched on many aspects of the IMC Code of Practice of 2007,” among other things.

The statement further noted that the Managing Editor of the newspaper, Jonathan Leigh, confirmed that he did not cross check his information with the subject of the publication, Rev. Kabs-Kanu. The  “the Complaints Committee concluded that the said publication had breached five (5) provisions in the IMC Code of Practice of 2007 dealing with the print media to wit: (1) Accuracy, (4) Copyright, (6) Privacy, (23) Indecency and Pornographic details and (26) Publishing details of a person’s religion, ethnicity, individual lifestyle, or any physical or mental disability.”

The newspaper must also write “letters of apology to the individuals who are the subject of the story to be published three consecutive times with equal prominence being given to the publication”. The Independent Observer must also retractthe said offending article together with the letters of apology”.

With regards to the Prime Times newspaper, the IMC said the January 29 edition of the newspaper was published without an imprint.

The IMC said the newspaper was fined for the breach in accordance with Section 32 (2) of the IMC Act, amended in 2007.

This section states that “any proprietor and any person who publishes or distributes any newspaper or magazine on which the name and business or residential address of the proprietor or publisher is not printed contrary to the requirement of subsection (1) commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding Le 5,000,000.”

The MFWA regrets this incident and urges the Sierra Leonean media to practice professionalism in reporting and adhere to the IMC’s Code of Practice.

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